When I first saw the title of the book I assumed Maurice LeBlanc would be pitting his master thief, Arsene Lupin against a surrogate for British super sleuth Sherlock Holmes. That’s SORT of the plot but not entirely. LeBlanc makes it clear that this is NOT Sherlock Holmes, the literary character created by Conan Doyle. The book literally mentions Sherlock Holmes as a creation of Doyle contrasting him with Herlock Sholmes, an actual British detective in the world of Lupin along with his assistant Wilson. Holmes is both a clever foil for Lupin and a sometimes humorous character at the same time particularly in his outrageously callous treatment of Wilson. As someone who has read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories I found LeBlanc’s clever but subtle tweaks at the character very entertaining.
To his credit Maurice LeBlanc makes Herlock Sholmes a very credible opponent for Lupin and he manages to do an excellent job of giving Sholmes the same impeccable deductive skills as Doyle did. This is a multi-round battle with each man having an opportunity to look inhumanly clever and the game is well played. It would have been easy for LeBlanc, a French writer, to make Sholmes look ridiculous facing off against his own creation but instead he created a battle of the titans and it takes a truly superior writer to create such masterful characters. The story is told from the perspective of Sholmes with Lupin being the mysterious opponent generally remaining one step ahead of the famed detective but Sholmes gets in plenty of victories.
The ending will likely satisfy fans of Lupin and Sherlock Holmes which was a tough act to pull off. I enjoyed this story a lot more than I expected and in my opinion it still holds up to this day. Currently the book is available for free on Kindle and for me it was well worth the time and effort in reading. After doing some research using Wikipedia it turns out LeBlanc intended on using Sherlock Holmes but changed the name after legal threats from Conan Doyle. I also discovered that Sholmes returns in two more books following this one including The Hollow Needle and 813. I look forward to reading both.
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